Thursday, October 29, 2009

2009_10_28 The Bone House

I saw The Bone House many years ago, when it was an Edmonton Fringe play. At that time, I thought it was one of the best plays I have ever seen. Last night, I saw the latest version - and I still think the version I saw 10 years ago is one of the best plays I have ever seen.

Don't get me wrong, The Bone House, in it's current version, is a powerful play. A friend told me afterwards he constantly worked to 'stand aside' from the action, to remember that 'this is just a play', to not get pulled into the story. And I'm sure he is not alone. If you do let yourself be pulled into the play (and I encourage you to do so for the best experience), The Bone House may be overwhelming.

It's hard to talk much about the play, without giving away the details... and I certainly do not want to spoil many of the surprises the play holds for the unsuspecting audience.

So I'll talk instead about the differences. Of course memory if a wonderful, fickle thing. We remember things that were not there - forget things that were there...

I saw this version of The Bone House as very 'multi-media', 'internet savy'. eg. It reaches out to the modern audience. There are gruesome images of dead bodies, plucked I presume from the internet. A 'video' of one of the killings - now that we expect movie cameras to be everywhere.

The version I originally saw had little of that. It was set in a school gymnasium, and the play looked like a sales pitch by a city slicker visiting a small town in the country. Today's version looks like a play a lot of the time, which is unfortunate, because the audience is more aware that this is theatre. One of the strengths of the text and the action, is the crossover between theatre and reality.

I think I remember four killings in the original - as part of the play. I could be wrong? There were two in this version. Giving me the sense of a 'speeded up for television' version (I don't own a television, but I am certainly aware that television avoids most details, to maintain pace and give the viewer lots of action).

I hear stories, and do not doubt, that when the play first opened at the Edmonton Fringe, some members of the audience were physically sick during the performance. The Bone House is not for weak stomachs. People under 15 are not allowed to attend.

If you want to see something that crosses the lines between theatre and reality, and scares the pants off of you, while crossing the line - buy a ticket to The Bone House. And let yourself be sucked into the action. Maybe you should buy two, so you have someone to walk you home. The Bone House will deliver.

And when you leave the theatre? Don't be surprised if you find yourself watching your back.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009_10_13 Everybody Goes to Mitzi's

Looking for an uplifting night out? Music, dance, drama? Some evenings, especially mid-week, I just want to have a good time. Everybody Goes to Mitzi's is a good time. It's local - Theatro La Quindicina written and performed, with many of our familiar friends - Jocelyn Ahlf, Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Ryan Parker, and of course Leona Brausen. She can light up any stage. We also have a new face - Robyn Wallis as 'Tippi Lala'.

The story is local too. It's in Edmonton, in golden age of dinner and dance supper clubs. eg, looking for an uplifting night out? Music, dance - social drama?

Of course the story is not all fun and games - "you can't have light without a dark to stick it into" (in the immortal words of Arlo). As the story unfolds, and Mitzi loses her betrothed to the lights of Las Vegas, and she descends into darkness and despair, but we know it will all work out in the end. We can easily guess what might happen next, as the story progresses - which makes the evening all the more pleasurable.

And it does. And it is. Mitzi's delivers. The music by Ryan Sigurdson, Tim Milligan and Toscha Turner is always present, but never intrusive. I stopped a few times during the action to listen to 'just the music'. Beautiful - and I could still hear all of the action. The lyrics were fun, interesting - witty and musical themselves. I must confess however, as I drove home, I could not remember a single tune, or phrase other than "everybody goes to Mitzi's". eg. the music was enjoyable, but nothing stood out.

The story seems very predictable, but when you get to the end, you might walk out without realizing that:
- the pretty young girl is still single
- the matriarch will never be a mother
- the life will go on, Mitzi's is trapped in time
- was that play really two hours long? time passed so quickly. (note for the unwary, Mitzi starts at 7:30).

But you will know that:
- you had a good time at Mitzi's!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Woman in Black at the Roxy Theatre

Last week I caught Theatre Network's production of the Woman in Black, at the Roxy. Before the play really got underway, the audience was already tittering with nervous laughter. Maybe due to the 'ghost' shadow created by a large coat tree, that hung imposingly on the right side of the stage. The stage was ingeniously designed for fright - lots of dark shadows, where actors (and ghosts) could appear and disappear without warning. The Roxy is an excellent venue for this play. The old theatre junk scattered about the stage looked like it was left there from a recent performance. The Theatre blends right into the show.

I went, wanting to be scared, and I was not disappointed. The ghost appearances were accompanied by sounds and lighting that shook my bones without warning. There was shock with the appearances, which started mildly enough and grew more imposing and threatening as the performance progressed. It was a bit annoying that some audience members kept laughing -- after they recovered from their fear.

The Woman in Black has all of the traditional elements of a real ghost story, with an interesting perspective - as told by two actors trying to exorcise the ghost.

We learn about the ghost gradually, as a mystery, then as a presence, and finally, as a threat. The pressure builds. And then the play ends.... And of course, being theatre, it ends with a twist - or is it a threat?

Last - as we leave the theatre - the ghost appears again. A delightful conclusion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sweet Serenity at the Haven

The first time I heard Jesse Dee sing Sweet Serenity, I loved the song and listened closely, trying to hear every word. The first time I pictured Jacquie B, she was hiding her hair and her face under a toque.

Last night everyone danced to Sweet Serenity, and many other original tunes from Jesse Dee and Jacquie B at the Haven, as they started their cross Canada Tour. It was a prom nite - Jacquie asked friends to dress up, and many did so. Jesse in a vest and hat, Jacquie in a dress and heels (well, cowboy boot heels), Pascal and Moses suited up as well (I didn't recognize Moses, nor Jesse when I first saw them in their fancy duds).

I arrived late, catching a bit of the last tune by opener Ory No'man, and enjoyed the witty jazz sounds of Heather Blush and the Upper Cuts while nursing my Trad.

Then Jesse and Jacquie got everyone on their feet. It is hard to sit still when they bring start moving. Jessie's tunes, Jacquie's harmonies - intelligent, musical, beautiful - have evolved to rhythmic, thumping, jumping dance music. This is a group to follow. Their music is growing and changing. Their confidence is growing and their performance skills are in tune. They reach out and grab the audience again and again.

The set was short,or maybe it just seemed short - everyone was moving so fast. It felt warm outside - ?October at 1:00 am? - maybe it was just the energy of the J team.

You can follow Jesse and Jacquie's across Canada at Highway Robbery Tour